NatSci appoints new Faculty Excellence Advocate
Faculty members in the Michigan State University College of Natural Science (NatSci) with general or specific concerns related to college processes and programs have a new contact and advocate in Heather Eisthen, a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology, who became the college’s new Faculty Excellence Advocate (FEA) on January 1. Eisthen replaces Cynthia Jordan, who retired last August.
The FEA serves as a resource for the advancement of faculty and academic staff and in implementing the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives of the college. Specifically, the FEA serves as a link between the dean’s office and the college’s departments and programs to assist in implementing diversity goals and evaluation criteria related to the advancement, retention and professional development of tenure-system faculty, fixed-term faculty and academic staff.
“I am delighted that Professor Heather Eisthen will serve as NatSci’s Faculty Excellence Advocate,” said Cheryl Sisk, NatSci associate dean for faculty development, who oversaw the search. “The FEA’s primary responsibility is to serve as an advocate to promote policies, practices and procedures to ensure greater consistency, transparency, equity and inclusion for faculty. Professor Eisthen has an extensive history of effective mentoring of junior colleagues and trainees, and she will be an outstanding advocate for NatSci faculty success.” Eisthen received the college’s Junior Faculty Mentoring Award in 2021.
Eisthen is excited to address faculty issues in the coming three years.
“I plan to investigate the state of potential salary inequities in NatSci based on gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation,” said Eisthen, who has been at MSU for almost 25 years. “I want to know if NatSci is following MSU’s nondiscrimination goals. We all know that unconscious—or implicit—biases affect workplace decisions. And I would like to address those inequities if I find them in the college. It’s time to study the data we have to address potential unfairness.
“To the extent possible,” Eisthen continued, “I’d also like to figure out whether the college has policies or procedures that are having disparate impact that the college isn’t recognizing. Are there better ways to solve a problem for which we created a policy that has unintended, negative consequences? As FEA, I can gather information and talk to the deans about ways to address these problems.”
The FEA serves as a trusted confidante and mentor for faculty and academic staff from their initial appointment through their career milestones and their development as leaders. They collaborate with unit and college leadership to create and sustain positive and inclusive work environments while maintaining confidentiality and providing a safe place for faculty to share their experiences and seek guidance and help.
“I see reaching out to new faculty as my number one priority,” Eisthen said. “There wasn’t an FEA last fall, and we had faculty members who were hired and started during that time. I want to reach out to them and say, ‘Hi, I’m available for questions or if you want to talk.’”
The FEA can provide confidential advice to any tenure-track faculty member, but particularly pre-tenure people and those on the cusp of going up for promotion to full tenure. Since the FEA is not on tenure committees, they are good advisors for faculty with concerns.
“I can’t wait to get started as FEA and support NatSci faculty,” Eisthen said.
Banner image: The College of Natural Science (NatSci) at Michigan State University is home to 27 departments and programs in the biological, physical and mathematical sciences. The college averages $57M in research expenditures annually, while providing world-class educational opportunities to more than 5,500 undergraduate majors and 1,200 graduate and postdoc students. There are 800+ faculty and academic staff associated with NatSci, and more than 63,000 living alumni worldwide. Credit: Harley J. Seeley